Free-Form Dance Leads Home to Freedom

“As soon as I walked onto that dance floor and felt the free-form, felt the freedom, the non-judgemental space…I was home. Completely home.”

Ana G. Biele, Rhythm Connection Ecstatic Dance Santa Fe

This post is from the Gypsy Mama Travels series and is part of the co-created Dance, Community & Social Connection Research Project.


Jan 17th, 2019 ~ Santa Fe, NM
I am hanging on every word dripping so luxuriously from my interviewee’s mouth as she speaks with proficiency.
Ana Biele is the host/creator of Rhythm Connection ED Santa Fe

Ana Biele of Rhythm Connection Ecstatic Dance Santa Fe has agreed to talk with me about the topics of free-form dance, feeling at home, finding freedom… and so much more.  With this interview, I am in 7th heaven starting my Dance, Community & Social Connection Research Projecearly, here in Santa Fe.

I am starting early because my first house-sitting job was canceled 2.5 hours into my new life outside of the San Francisco Bay Area. With that, I decided to take the extra time to go on up into Santa Fe.  

Although I had spent a few days here last summer – I wasn’t sure I would ever call Santa Fe home. However, there was definitely something about the area that intrigued me.  Certainly there are more Soul Keys in this area for me. This time thrilled me to be able to have 5 full days there to explore, learn and discover what Santa Fe has to offer me.

It had been a glorious week of mostly highs! First of all I made some new friends and friend dates!

I also sat in a Salt Cave and felt myself go extra-sensory in a matter of seconds. Then there were many new restaurants to explore, all with exciting new food combinations.

Lastly, I was going to connect with a long time follower of my blog tomorrow!!! (Yes I have ONE and she plays a MAJOR role in me being here today – so stay tuned!)  

For now, though, back to the present where I am sitting with Ana in her earthy and extremely New Mexican-flavored room. As I listen to her soft spacious voice dance over her introduction and her Spanish name, we excitedly embark on a journey of exploring the world of free-form dance:

“How did you find Conscious Dance?”

With this question asked, she wastes no time jumping in, taking the lead and going with it where she wants to go. I quickly realize that my list of carefully crafted, organized questions are of no use. This woman is a professional, in my opinion, at being interviewed. My style of interviewing will need to shift if I want to flow with her. This is amazing and I so love it!

Ana continues, mentioning now how she discovered conscious, free-form dance…and more importantly what it felt like for her:
Ana at home on the free-form dance floor!

“As soon as I walked onto that dance floor and felt the free-form, felt the freedom, the non-judgemental space ~ I was home. Completely home.

I could just go in (to the free-form dance) and ‘shake it up baby!’ (It’s) What I had always wished would be the case whenever I went to dances as a younger person.”

Agh yes! I completely resonate with Ana as she describes this feeling.

One of free-form dance leading home to freedom. This was my experience the first time I stepped onto an Ecstatic Dance dance floor as well.

Ana continues with her description of what she feels is so unique about these spaces:

“There are so few places that we get to be completely unbridled, completely authentically ourselves. And I was really needing that as a new mom…my body wasn’t even mine anymore…

Conscious Dance is really about paying attention to your energies (your complete self completely). (By) Coming in alcohol, drug-free…the idea is that we dance for a spiritual practice, for clarity. We’re dancing to a clear place, not dancing to forget or dilute (anything).”

Ana’s reflection on what the Free-Form Conscious Dance Space gave & gives her

As Ana speaks, chills run up and down my spine and all over my arms. After almost every sentence, I nod my head, “Yes, yes, Yes!”

Upon hearing these words about how free-form dance gave Ana a sense of home and freedom – I feel as if my life has been culminating, leading me here.

To this research project, this room and this woman. Right here to this purpose. The drive to Dance, the passion to experience life through the Dance – this has been the longest running Thread in my life.


I’m going to live forever. I’m going to learn how to fly!”
Show tune theme from Fame, 1982-1987 TV series
Winter 1983-1984, Lenexa, Kansas

It’s coooold outside, but I am warmly dressed in my footie pajamas – waiting for my mom to tune in my favorite TV show on the small TV sitting on the brick next to the fireplace. One that is hardly ever lit.

The rabbit ears get turned right, left, down and back to the right.

“That’s good!” I scream at my mom as I hear the precious song start to fill our home.

For the next hour, my eyes are glued to this screen, watching the dancers dance their way through the school in New York City. In reality, I have no idea really what they are doing outside of the dance scenes. I am only 6.5 years old you see.

Nonetheless, longing and delight fill me ~ for I want to be a dancer.

I want to dance so I too can be filled with the glorious freedom these people seem to have in their life. The freedom to launch their bodies into the air, roll around on the floor and move to the beat.

As a result of watching “Fame”, I have been begging my mom to enroll me in dance classes.

However, she never does tho.  She says we don’t have the money, nor the time to get me there.

So this little taste of dance is all I have to fill me up once a week.

Regardless, I just know that someday, in some way I will be a dancer. ***********************************************************


February of 1988 ~ Lenexa, KS  (10.5 years old)
This is a dream come true!  Not only am I back in Kansas City after almost 2 years of being away, surrounded by my old friends from Rosehill Elementary. I am now also taking dance classes.

Driving home from my first class – Barry, my new guardian “father” is asking me all about it. We had just stopped at QuickStop where I had filled my Big Gulp with a blend of Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew, yummy. I sip, sip, sip as we drive in our big blue Ford LTD Crown Victoria car down 103rd Avenue back to our home on Rosehill Road.

“So tell me, how was your first dance class Holli?”

I take a big gulp, pause as it burns its way down my throat and reply, “It was AMAZZZZING!” singing the words.  

I continue on, “I got to do leaps and plies.  To run across the room and fly, just like I used to see them do on Fame. I loved everything about it…well, almost…”

Hearing my hesitation, Barry inquires, “Except what?”

“Well,” I pause, not sure I can trust this almost stranger who is now acting as my dad.  This is another cool turn in my life.

After having a life without a dad for 9 years – then having my dad show up for the past 9 months and be nothing like what I imagined having a dad would be like – here was a man that felt warm and friendly.  

This man was asking me questions about my life.  Questions about me! Can you believe it?  I wanted to trust him, yet I was still a bit unsure of how to act around him.

“Well…nothing, it was great! Thank you so much for singing me up and taking me!”

It was just that I had never been in a class before, save the few tumbling classes my mom had been able to afford when I was 7.  So it was different and harder than I thought.  

As a result, I found my body didn’t move like the other girls’ bodies moved.  I felt so “gangly”, as I had heard someone say about my long skinny limbs.

So for now, I would keep my embarrassment to myself. While I felt awkward, I wanted him to know how grateful I was.  

Furthermore, I was determined to work hard to improve myself.



Fall of 1992 ~Munster, IN (15 years old)
“Holli,” Ms. M, my high school swim coach starts, “you at some point will have to make a choice.  Being a very gifted swimmer, I expect that if you dedicate yourself this year – you will be on the varsity team as a Sophomore.  While other girls have worked since they were 7, 8 and 9 to get here, you just started last year.  This would be an amazing accomplishment,” she finishes, speaking in her usual casual yet direct approach.  

In the last year, I have grown to admire and count on Ms. M as a consistent, loving presence in my life as my home life gets more and more difficult.  She is someone that I trust and can confide in about my home life.  There are very few that I let in on the secrets of what it is like behind closed doors.

Currently, she is talking about the choice I have to make between swimming and dance.

While one happens here at school, every day – 6 days a week – the other is once a week. Except in the spring when we prepare for the annual show.  It was a hassle to get to all the way over to the studio in Illinois – almost 20-30 mins away.  I had to depend on Pam or Barry, or my siblings to get me there.

Being the authority in the household, Pam wasn’t too keen on paying and taking me to both.

Also, my dance instructor has been hinting at my need to make a choice.

“Dance and swimming shape and contour the muscles differently. As a result, it will be difficult to continue in both.”

On the other hand, her assistant had been sharing with me lately that I have improved so much.  

In contrast to myself, I loved him and his feminine ways in his masculine body.  His dance and his movement were so inspiring to me – and his encouragement of my dance even more so.

Still, my body wasn’t like the other young women’s bodies.  Not even after dancing for 4 years.  I still couldn’t do the splits – in either style.  Not even close. My legs and my hips just would not do what these others dancers could do.

Sure, I could follow the choreography, putting everything I had into those moves. Yet I wasn’t at the level of these other girls who had been dancing practically their whole lives.  And I wasn’t going to get there dancing only once a week.  I knew that – and while I was frustrated about that – I had accepted it.

The thing is – I have grown to enjoy swimming.

It is something I always loved to do as well as a child.  I was a natural born dolphin.  Being in the water was like 2nd nature to me. When I started to learn the strokes, my dolphin*ness proved advantageous, helping me drop times. Here I was in only my second season – and I most likely would be swimming varsity!

To boot, being on deck with my team gave me a sense of belonging.  We were friends outside of the pool, too.  This had become my family, my home – a place I felt freedom.  

This was something I had always longed for.  

As a freshman last year, I had tried out for so many different things – longing to be part of a team, to have my place in High School. This was not something I had ever had in my life ever at 15 years of age.  Neither a place of belonging – nor a sport.

While I loved dancing, I didn’t seem to be as apt at it as I was at swimming.  Yes, dancing had been my dream. Yet, it just seemed it was not in the cards for me.

When it came down to making the choice, I convinced myself I had more of a swimmer’s body than a dancer’s body.  Success with swimming was coming easily – and felt it could take me somewhere.  I could taste the athlete in me: the desire to compete and prove myself worthy in something – anything.

My childhood dream of becoming a dancer I could feel slipping away.  It was never really realistic for me anywho.  “Just let it go,” I coax myself.


March 2013 ~ San Luis Obispo, CA
“I am home. This is absolutely what it must be like to be home. Free-form dance is home, freedom.”

These are the words that would be going through my head if words were even in my head.

I had just spent the last 2 hours twirling, playing, skipping about this gorgeous ballroom with a group of new friends. My head felt spacious, with thoughts few and far between. The sweet kindred kiss I had shared with a mother-like figure still lingered on my lips.

The soft, delightful, smooth touch of strangers connecting with my skin – their heat still on my body. Their touch was something new I had never experienced. It was innocent and full of care and concern, of questioning as we danced around each other. We played as if we were at recess – as per the invitation at the outset of this experience.

Most of all, though, I had such a feeling and deep-rooted sense of belonging, of being home – and of being free. Of sweet, sweet freedom.

It seems that dreams really can come true: This space, this free-form Ecstatic Dance space – it has been the type of space I have always needed to unleash the dancer in me.

Now I can truly claim, “I am a DANCER!”

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